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Provide alternative livelihood to rickshaw-pullers: Lapierre

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TASTE OF RURAL BENGAL: French writer Dominique Lapierre and his wife admiring the well-known photograph of Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn during a visit to the Keoradanga village in South 24 Parganas in West Bengal on Wednesday.
TASTE OF RURAL BENGAL: French writer Dominique Lapierre and his wife admiring the well-known photograph of Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn during a visit to the Keoradanga village in South 24 Parganas in West Bengal on Wednesday.

Antara Das

"My next book will be based on the Sunderbans"

Bishnupur (South 24 Parganas): The decision to ban hand-pulled rickshaws from the streets of Kolkata is fraught with questions, feels Dominique Lapierre, whose 1985 novel "City of Joy" turned the humble rickshaw on the Kolkata street to a symbol of resilience in the face of adversities.

"It is not enough to simply ban the rickshaws on paper; one must provide the rickshaw pullers with alternative livelihood," he said here on Wednesday. "What that alternative livelihood will be can be best decided in consultation with the rickshaw pullers as they would know their problems best," he added.

School inaugurated

Mr. Lapierre was here to inaugurate a primary school Bodhodaya Vidya Mandir in Laxmikantapur in Bishnupur-I block in South 24 Parganas district which was the fifteenth in a series of schools constructed with his support to reach quality education to local children.

A substantial part of the funds involved in the construction and management of these schools for the rural poor was drawn from the auction of a black Givenchy dress made for Audrey Hepburn for her portrayal of the Manhattan socialite Holly Golightly in the 1961 movie, `Breakfast at Tiffany's'. The dress fetched £ 467,200 at the Christie's auction in December 2006, the proceeds of which went to Mr. Lapierre's City of Joy Aid foundation.

Mr. Lapierre also inaugurated a home at Keoradanga village in the same block that will provide residential rehabilitation as of now free of cost to 100 mentally challenged women from the local areas. Called the Lapierre Centre of Excellence for Disabled under the Asha Bhavan Centre, the home will also provide vocational training so that the women can be prepared to return to their respective communities.

Mr. Lapierre, however, denied that he is assuming the mantle of a messiah as he hands out largesse to the poor. "I am not a messiah but only a small instrument in the hand of God," he said.

Mr. Lapierre has also decided on the subject for his next literary venture. "My next book will be a kind of documentation based on the Sunderbans, an area close to my heart," he said.

"It is a very threatened region because of the green house effect, the sinking islands and the absence of basic amenities," Mr. Lapierre added. "Even the water drawn from the tubewells is either saline or loaded with arsenic," he said.


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